On Armenian Genocide, Politics Trumps Truth

By Leonard Fein

Assyrian International News Agency
Aug 16 2007

On the surface, it should be an easy call. Here, for example, is the
text of a cable that Henry Morgenthau, Sr., then America’s ambassador
to Turkey, sent to the State Department on July 10, 1915: "Persecution
of Armenians assuming unprecedented proportions. Reports from widely
scattered districts indicate systematic attempt to uproot peaceful
Armenian population and through arbitrary arrests, terrible tortures,
whole-sale expulsions, and deportations from one end of the Empire
to the other accompanied by frequent instances of rape, pillage and
murder, turning into massacre, to bring destruction and destitution
on them. These measures are not in response to popular or fanatical
demand but are purely arbitrary and directed from Constantinople in
the name of military necessity, often in districts where no military
operations are likely to take place." And then, on August 11, his
cable back home referred to "this effort to exterminate a race."

Morgenthau couldn’t use the word "genocide"; it wasn’t invented until
1944. But today, the overwhelming majority of scholars around the
world are in agreement: The first genocide of the 20th century was
committed by Turkey, and the Armenians were its victims.

But Turkey disagrees, labors mightily to impeach the scholarship,
to expunge the term, to establish its claim that Armenians were mere
casualties of war. Unlike the many nations that have established
commissions of truth and reconciliation, that have looked fearlessly
into their own past crimes against humanity (most notably, Germany
itself), Turkey hires K Street lobbyists to persuade the American
public and the U.S. Congress that its hands are clean, its heart is
pure. (See, for an example, the statement of former Congressman Bob
Livingston, who has been paid at least $700,000 by Turkey, here).

It is doubtful that many people are persuaded by the Turks and their
lobbyists. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recognizes
the Armenian genocide, as does the Reform Jewish movement, as,
one assumes, do most Jewish leaders, at least privately — perhaps
even the leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish
Committee, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and
B’nai B’rith International. Yet the leaders of these organizations
have steadfastly refused to endorse a bill currently before Congress
that would formally acknowledge the fact of the Armenian genocide.

How can that be? Why do they shy away from using the word "genocide" to
describe the tragedy of the Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turkey?

The answer is unsettling. It has nothing to do with history or truth;
it has everything to do with the strategic interests of Israel,
as also, to a lesser degree, of the United States.

Turkey is a Muslim country that maintains cordial and strategically
important relations with both Israel and America. That is presumably
why, in 2001, Shimon Peres, then Israel’s foreign minister, could say,
"We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust
and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust
occurred. What the Armenians went through is a tragedy, but not

The Peres dismissal led Professor Israel Charny, executive director
of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem, to write
to Peres: "Even as I disagree with you, it may be that in your broad
perspective of the needs of the State of Israel, it is your obligation
to circumvent and desist from bringing up the subject with Turkey,
but as a Jew and an Israeli I am ashamed of the extent to which you
have now entered into the range of actual denial of the Armenian
Genocide, comparable to denials of the Holocaust."

The matter has suddenly become a volatile disruption. In Watertown,
a suburb of Boston that is home to some 8,000 Armenians, a challenge
has been mounted against ADL’s "No Place For Hate" program, a popular
anti-bigotry campaign in which hundreds of communities around the
nation participate. And cyberspace is filled with criticism of Abe
Foxman, the ADL’s chief, who recently said, "This [the genocide]
is not an issue where we take a position one way or the other. This
is an issue that needs to be resolved by the parties, not by us. We
are neither historians nor arbiters."

It is true that Foxman is neither a historian nor an arbiter. But
it is not possible to believe that he is unaware of the relevant
history. And that raises a number of pressing questions:

At what point do we allow Israel’s raisons d’etat to override the
sober and sobering truth? There’s a long record on this one, going back
to Israel’s efforts to impose silence on American Jews regarding the
plight of Soviet Jewry, regarding our views of the junta in Argentina,
even regarding the war in Vietnam. Israeli officials will necessarily
act in what they perceive as their nation’s interests, but is there
no way for Israel’s friends to express their own considered views
without impinging on those interests?

Does not the outrageous stubbornness of Turkey require that Turkey’s
friends and allies seek to persuade the Turkish government that this
abrasive issue will continue to foul Turkey’s reputation, that it
would be a mature and cleansing act for Turkey at long last to lay
open the record and deal frankly with its past, as so many others have
done and are doing? Would not such candor raise Turkey’s reputation
in the family of nations?

And a question for the authors of HR106, the House bill that would
formally recognize the genocide: Have you no shame? The resolution
"calls upon the President… to recall the proud history of United
States intervention in opposition to the Armenian Genocide." But
America’s record was not proud; it was shameful, as Samantha Power
carefully documents in her masterful "A Problem From Hell: America
and the Age of Genocide." We, too, ought be honest about the past.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress


Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS